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The Difference Between Chemical And Physical Exfoliants (Updated 2019)
Skincare, Education

The Difference Between Chemical And Physical Exfoliants (Updated 2019)

You have your basic skincare regimen down to a tee, but what about exfoliation? Exfoliants should be used to help smooth and revive a dull, tired complexion. Most people think of scrubs with beads or other granules when they think of exfoliation, but there are more possibilities.

What is Exfoliation?

Our skin naturally exfoliates itself as our cells go through their natural life cycle every two weeks. As we age, our cell renewal rate slows, resulting in a buildup of dead skin cells. Using an exfoliant helps loosen cells from the upper layers of skin, the epidermis, to clear cellular buildup. Hydroxy Acids, physical exfoliants, enzymes and Retinol can help boost cellular turnover.

Chemical Exfoliants

Chemical exfoliators include Hydroxy Acids, Retinol and enzymes. Hydroxy Acids like Salicylic Acid and Glycolic Acid help loosen dead skin cells to smooth the skin. Enzymatic exfoliation smooths the stratum corneum by eating at the skin cells on the surface. Retinol normalizes cell turnover and loosens the glue that holds cells together.

Gentle, very superficial exfoliants stay within the uppermost layers of the epidermis, the stratum corneum. When a light chemical exfoliation treatment is performed you may or may not experience skin sloughing.

Professional skin therapists have access to stronger exfoliants called superficial chemical exfoliants that impact all or part of the epidermis down to the basal layer, resulting in mild flaking. As a general rule, you can get this type of facial every 30 days, depending on how your skin reacts to the treatment.

With stronger peels that penetrate down to the dermis, you will have longer downtime and should plan three to six months between treatments.

Physical Exfoliants

Physical exfoliants use granules to manually remove dead skin cells from the surface. The granules may include beads, nut powder or seed powder. They do not penetrate beyond the superficial layers of the dermis. Acne-prone and sensitive skin may wish to avoid physical exfoliants as they can irritate the skin if overdone.

Many exfoliants include polyethylene beads, small plastic particles. Microbeads, which negatively impact the environment, were banned in July of 2018. As of July 2016, all Glo Skin Beauty exfoliants and cleansers are microbead-free and use safe alternatives.

At-Home Exfoliants

  • Refresh Facial Polish is a physical exfoliant made with a combination of Jojoba Beads and Diatomaceous Earth to removes debris from the skin’s surface without irritation. Plus, the mint scent is the perfect morning refresher.
  • Our most popular exfoliant, Pumpkin Enzyme Scrub, is both a chemical and a physical exfoliant. The formula includes date seeds and jojoba esters as well as enzymes. Did we mention it smells exactly like Fall?
  • Brightening Polish is a physical exfoliant that removes dead skin cells with Jojoba Beads and CelluloscrubTM, a biodegradable modified cellulose from wood pulp.
  • The perfect multi-tasker, Daily Polishing Cleanser, is a great option for anyone looking to combine their exfoliation and cleansing step. This gentle formula is perfect for daily use because of its unique powder formula that foams when wet.
  • Gentle Enzyme Exfoliant is a chemical exfoliant that uses fruit enzymes to support skin's natural turn over process. It's a favorite for anyone with sensitive skin or skin not suited for physical exfoliation.
  • If you've ever tried to heal chapped lips, you know how difficult it is to get rid of the dead skin. Smoothing Lip Polish uses sugar crystals to buff away dry skin from the delicate lip area, prepping your lips for smooth color application.
  • Your body deserves to be as soft as your face, so keep the exfoliation going with Smoothing Sugar Melt. Sugar crystals smooth away dull patches then melt into skin to provide conditioning benefits.
July 12, 2016

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